Reviews for Almost Home
The Living Tradition
Issue 122 Feb 2018
Camp 40 Recordings C4T200CD
Cambridge-based Daniel Nestlerode brings his brand of “authentic Americana” to his second CD, Almost Home. Four self-penned compositions, three standards and three instrumentals compile the ten tracks.
The instrumentals showcase Daniel’s mastery of the mandolin. Red Haired Boy / Salt Creek is a foot-tapping, rhythmically tight number, while Humphrey’s Waltz is gentle and wistful. The up-tempo Locktender’s Reel and Temperance Reel complete the trio. Among Daniel’s four songs, Wounded Knee acknowledges the suffering of native Americans, and Take Us As We Are is a warm and up-beat celebration of domestic chaos, with a fine melody and sing-along chorus. Here And Now is similarly paced, while the closing song, Say Goodbye, is also strong with a hint of poignancy.
Three well-known classics make interesting inclusions. The powerful lyrics of Poor Wayfaring Stranger and Stephen Foster’s wonderful Hard Times Come Again No More have relevance to contemporary issues. Daniel’s versions are straightforward, as is his treatment of the equally familiar Shenandoah. It is easy to imagine Daniel’s live performances truly bringing these great songs to life.
While much of the work on the album is solely Daniel’s, with his mandolin playing as the outstanding feature, he is ably accompanied by Mark Gamon and Paul Ballantyne on guitar, and Marie Mace on bodhrán.
Almost Home is a warm and pleasant listen - a demonstration of marvellous mandolin playing and a collection of easily accessible and classic songs.
Album: Almost Home
Label: Camp 40
Daniel Nestlerode is a singer and songwriter and mandolinist, born in Pennsylvania, who later moved to California to pursue a musical career. He relocated to Cambridge (UK) after marrying, and for the past four years he’s built himself a steady reputation in Americana circles, with well-received spots at festivals including Ely (2015) in tandem with guitarist Paul Ballantyne, who appears on four of the tracks on Almost Home, Daniel’s second full-length collection.
If your bag is unpretentiously well-played, well-sung, accessible Americana, both traditional and contemporary, then you can’t go wrong with Daniel’s music. Almost Home brings us Daniel’s passionate, forthright interpretations of five well-loved items (songs Wayfaring Stranger and Shenandoah, Stephen Foster’s Hard Times and a couple of pairs of tunes) and five of his own original songs. The latter range companionably from the gently uptempo yet meditative Here And Now and the Native-American-themed Wounded Knee to the honest-to-goodness, straightforward, good-time welcoming foot-tapper Take Us As We Are (a highpoint of the disc for me) and affectionate album closer Say Goodbye, with the disc menu being completed by the sublime instrumental Humphrey’s Waltz. Daniel’s skilled handling of the mandolin and octave mandolin (he learnt from David Grisman, one of the very best!) shines out from the proverbial grooves, and ideally complements his warm vocal style, while he also doubletracks a simple guitar part on a couple of tracks. For some of the time, he’s augmented by the abovementioned Paul Ballantyne, Mark Gamon (guitar or slide guitar) and Marie Mace (bodhrán) – just sufficient embellishment to reinforce the genial down-home nature of the sessions and the music-making.
No quibbles, then – other than a slight trace of reined-in understatement here and there, and the disc’s unexpected brevity (barely 31 minutes).
CD of the Week, 31 July 2017
Daniel Nestlerode is a singer and songwriter who writes and performs principally on mandolin. Born in Pennsylvania, seasoned in California, Daniel is now based in Cambridge, UK and has built a reputation for excellent vocal ability and history soaked original songs.
His second full length CD is due for release this Summer and features 10 songs with backing from Mark Gamon & Paul Ballantyne on guitar and Marie Mace on bodhran.
The album kicks off with an evocative interpretation of the traditional song ‘Wayfaring Stranger’. Daniel’s mandolin playing adding a poignant atmosphere created a beautiful vocal track.
Here and Now’ is an original composition with just vocals and mandolin proving Daniel is an excellent songwriter which is followed by the instrumental ‘ Red Haired Boy / Salt Creek’ which puts his musicianship to the fore.
‘Wounded Knee’ is a great song dedicated to Native American Indians and takes an imaginary first person look at the aftermath of a particularly heinous massacre. The historical point of the song is not out of place in current events and will resonate with those of us who care about these issues.
‘O Shenandoah’ is a well known traditional song which can make it difficult to own, but Daniel manages this capably with warm and plaintive vocals. It is immediately followed by a mandolin/guitar instrumental called ‘Humphreys Waltz’ that carries the wistful tone but adds a hopeful note.
The next track, Hard Times Come Again No More’ is an American parlour song written by Stephen Foster. It asks those of us who are fortunate to consider the plight of those who do not share our luck. Performances of this song usually emphasize the sadness of Foster’s lyric. But Daniel turns the sadness to anger and lament into resolute will.
Because of its ear-worm of a sing-along chorus, ‘Take Us as We Are’ is my favourite cut on the CD. The song celebrates open-heartedness despite the host’s desperate need for a bit of DIY help. You’ll be singing this long after the CD is finished.
The penultimate track, ‘The Locktender’s Reel / Temperance Reel’, starts off gently but quickly picks up pace with all four musicians on this album finding their A game. It had me foot tapping away.
The final song is appropriately ‘ Say Goodbye’. It’s a great way to finish an excellent album that clearly demonstrates Daniel’s skills as a singer, instrumentalist and songwriter.